A group of environmental activists has been occupying the 'Bobësch' between Bascharage and Sanem for the past week in an attempt to prevent part of the woodland from being cut down for the construction of a bypass.
It is the first forest occupation in Luxembourg. While the activists have no means of refrigerating food or preparing hot meals, they receive supplies from sympathisers and residents from the nearby village. They have recently been able to get drinking water from a municipal tap at the local water tower, not far from their camp. In order to make it more difficult for the authorities to drive them out of the forest, the activists, who want to remain anonymous, have installed platforms up in the trees.
Speaking to our colleagues from RTL Télé, the activists state that they have learned from other forest occupations abroad, mainly in Germany. The group visited German activists during occupations and lived with them for "a few days or even weeks". The German activists taught them "how to climb and how to properly fix these structures so that they stay in place".
If part of the Bobësch is cut down for a road, it has to be replanted elsewhere. However, the activists argue that this is not enough, stating that "if you remove half of the forest then you can basically remove everything because at this point it no longer has any ecological value". The activists point out that part of the Zämerbësch is also classified as a Natura-2000 green zone and is home to numerous protected species of animals. "You can't just remove a part of this forest. If you remove a part of it, you kill the entire forest," according to the activists.
Mayor of Käerjeng Michel Wolter has no understanding for the cause. According to the Mayor, the construction of the bypass is important "not just for the municipality, but for the entire south of the country".
The municipality is currently reviewing its legal options, Wolter states, arguing that it is unacceptable that people decide to occupy someone else's property. "Tomorrow they will occupy my schoolyard, the day after tomorrow they will sit in your garden because they don't like something that's happening in society," Wolter bemoans. The Mayor thinks that "society can't work this way" and that laws must be respected at all times.
The construction of the bypass is set to start in 2023, according to Wolter. The activists want to send a message by continuing their occupation for several weeks, while already vowing to return.
Nature and Forest Agency: No need to intervene 'for the time being'
Frank Wolff, the deputy director of the Nature and Forest Agency, said that the authorities were keeping an eye on the situation but that for the time being there was no need for action.
Wolff, whose agency is under the authority of the Ministry of the Environment, explained that one of his teams had been sent to the site of the occupation at the Bobësch on Wednesday morning. On Thursday, the Ministry confirmed that no violation of the nature protection law had been found.
The deputy director even stressed that "the Agency has sympathy for what the activists are defending, as they are involved in the preservation of our forests, one of the main tasks of our agency."
However, Wolff also acknowledged that this action is taking place "in a protected area," which is why it is the Agency's responsibility to "go and see what is going on while making sure that nature is not damaged by the people involved".
He added that it is "very important" that the activists do not start fires but concluded by reassuring the public that "the situation is under control, there is no need to act at the moment".
The full report by RTL Télé (in Luxembourgish):